When in Manila, and you are feeling quite ‘bitter’ about love, this writer assures you that you are not alone. In fact there is a club where you might fit right in. It’s called the Kapeng Barako Club: Samahan ng mga Bitter.
The stage for Kapeng Barako Club
Kapeng Barako Club, a 2010 Palanca-Award Winning Play written and directed by Juan Ekis, parlays a story about a group of friends and their ‘bitter’ love life. The play features the following friends: Joel, a freelance artist who struggles with his sikmura and trying to confess his love to Anna. Anna, on the other hand, is an accounts executive and is the best friend of Joel.
Joel and Anna
Masi is a vocalist for a band and is engaged to man named Ed, who happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Anna. Eric, a middle manager of a consulting firm, has feelings for Masi but can’t seem to say it. What Eric doesn’t know is that Masi has feelings for him as well.
Masi and Eric
Stef is a commercial model who recently made her return from her studies in Russia. And Marlowe, the owner of the coffee shop, who’s always fascinated by the group’s tales and trials about love. Outside the main group of friends, the play also has Sunshine, the always cheerful barista at Marlowe’s cafe.
Masi and Eric, with an eavesdropping Marlowe in the background.
The story/script of the Kapeng Barako Club is very good and gives proof as to why this it won a Palanca Award. While the bulk of the story highlighted the bad luck of a character’s love life, the script still had a touch of light comedy which was a welcomed addition so as to not give the person a wholly negative feel when we delve too much on the bitter aspects of the story.
Marlowe and Stef
As for the venue, Quantum Café gave Kapeng Barako Club that much needed coffee shop look. The stage was set with the other tables of the venue and literally made the play closer for the viewing and dining audience. For this writer, that really gave authenticity to the script of Kapeng Barako Club. The play’s soundtrack also did well to add more of that coffee shop vibe that the play demanded.
Marlowe drinking a cup of coffee
Another factor that really made Kapeng Barako Club a real joy to watch was the top notch acting by the cast. Everyone in the cast did their roles pretty well. From the sleazy yet lovable coffee shop owner/playwright (Marlowe) to the always smiling barista (Sunshine), each cast member owned their role on the café stage and made the audience feel either good or bad for them (depending on the scene).
Eric and Marlowe
As an audience member I felt the cast was effective in pulling some of the punch lines and the more serious scenes in the play. All in all, the play was well done from start to finish.
Stef and Anna
After the show, I had the opportunity to ask Kapeng Barako Club’s director/writer Juan Ekis a few questions.
Mr. Juan Ekis (left) – Kapeng Barko Club’s Director/Writer and Mr. Greg (right)
When did the idea for Kapeng Barako Club started to brew up?
It started, I think around 5-6 years ago. I just wanted to write a play with that title. I didn’t know yet what it was going to be about. But i just knew i wanted to write about types of people and the types of coffee they love and how their personalities are reflected in their drinks.
What made you tackle this theme about ‘bitterness’?
The theme about bitterness came as an afterthought. I just wanted the title. However, I couldn’t finish the play. It was after my breakup when I easily finished the play because the theme finally made sense to me.
Did some of the events that took place in the place bore similarity to the things you or your friends encountered in real life? If so, how real was it?
Everything I wrote is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, places, events and circumstances are INTENTIONAL.
Which character in the play can you relate to the most?
Some people say I’m Marlowe. My family, when they saw the play, said that I am all of them. I tend to agree with family.
What certain line of the play do you like the most?
“Ikaw yung play ko na sana totoo na lang.” – Marlowe
Why did you pick this line?
I share Marlowe’s inordinate love affair with fictional characters
We’ve seen Kapeng Barako Club staged at Quantum Café, and Bo’s Coffee on an earlier run, to give the coffee shop feel. What other places around the Metro would you like to have this play staged on in future runs?
We’re looking for local cafes. We want to bring this play to more audiences, more accessible venues.
So what’s your ideal local café to stage it in Manila?
Ideally they should be intimate coffee shop but it should be able to accommodate a relatively large audience.
Do you have any plans to write a sequel for this script?
The prequel is currently being written as a 12-episode online viral. Sequel? I don’t know yet. I haven’t ‘talked’ to the characters if they still want to go on with their lives.
If you don’t mind me asking, are you ‘bitter’? Why/why not?
Nope. I am very happy with my life, thank you very much.
Do you have any parting words to anyone out there who is ‘bitter’ about love?
Bitterness is just a term we invented to call that trap in time and space where we refuse to move on. Art is what we all we need to be able to leave that pit.
Eric in deep thought
For those interested in watching the final show this Friday night, I’d like to give you a tip: be early. While there’s an off-chance of the play’s starting time being moved, getting early and obtaining the front row seats is a must if you want maximum enjoyment of watching Kapeng Barako Club. Let’s just say the seats aren’t elevated, hence it’ll really be to your advantage to obtain the first few rows of seats when you get there. Another advantage for those who are early, and who will bring transportation, is that you would also get access to better parking space outside the venue.
Marlowe and Stef
On a personal note, watching Juan Ekis’ Kapeng Barako Club: Samahan ng mga Bitter helped rekindle the flame of this hapless writer to try and go back to the stage sometime in the future. In terms of relating to a character from the play, I’d say I could slightly relate to Marlowe. Not because he was sleazy, but because of his ‘scientific’ approach on situations and how he’d love to craft it out in a future play. However, I feel that deeper discussion of that similarity must be put aside for another day. I would also like to thank the organizers Ms. Dianne Moreno and Ms. Cia Jorge, as well as the director Mr. Juan Ekis for inviting us to watch Kapeng Barako Club. It truly was a spectacular play.
Marlowe and Sunshine
When in Manila and you want to meet some ‘bitter’ people, head on over to Quantum Café this Friday night and watch Kapeng Barako Club: Samahan ng mga Bitter. This writer assures you that you’ll be entertained and astounded by the talented cast and crew of this production.
The Kapeng Barako Club (sans Eric) drinking it up
Photos: Martin Vicencio & Otep Garcia
Kapeng Barako Club Poster Credit: Dianne Moreno
KAPENG BARAKO CLUB: SAMAHAN NG MGA BITTER
Catch the last show this Friday (September 14, 2012) at Quantum Café, Makati
Time: 7 PM
Ticket Prices: 500 pesos* (inclusive of 1 free drink stub).
*Part of the ticket proceeds will also benefit the Right Start and YesPinoy foundation
Ticket Reservations: 09154601108